How to Regain Your Rankings After the Farmer Update

Mar 4, 2011 • 4:36 pm | comments (20) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google Content Farm AlgorithmThe question on the minds of many affected by the Farmer Update is: How do I get my rankings back? What strategies can I employ right now that will start the process of recovering some/if not all of my traffic in Google? A very recent thread on WebmasterWorld was started by a webmaster affected by the update and his plans to fix the problem areas of his website and then document the effects in Google. Other SEO's and webmasters joined the conversation and been hotly debating this the last few days, sharing tips and plans to recover their rankings.

The unfortunate reality right now for most websites is that your rankings will not recover completely in the short term, whether you do nothing or something. Once Google has filtered out your lower quality content that previously gained easy rankings, it will take some effort to recover your rankings for those previous positions. Not to fret however, there are things you can do to help move this process along.

So What Should You Do?

First determine how much you were affected by the Farmer Update. This could be the first diagnostic clue on how significant your new changes should be. Look at your detailed analytics reports and determine the drop in organic traffic for your major keywords and even long tail keywords. See any patterns? What areas were the most affected? If you lost more than 75% of your traffic it could be mean there is some serious content quality issues going on with your site. If you lost much less, then you probably have less to do, and Google is just polishing your overall valuable content footprint in the index for you. You could also have sections of your website that are dragging down the overall rankings for other pages. Identify them.

It seems one of the most overwhelming strategies so far is blocking off the thin and auto-generated content sections of your website from Google. Google has indicated that low quality pages on one part of the site can effect the overall ranking on another part of your website. This was a tip shared before the update by Google's JohnMu. He recommended blocking the crawling and indexing of any content that is not unique or valuable to users.

What is the best way to do this? Forums members are discussing the ways they are doing this. Here are some strategies from separating your thin/lower quality content from the rest of your site and other tactics being used to fix their websites.

  • Address the most significantly impacted pages first, get rid of them
  • Use Meta Robots noindex, follow tag on individual pages
  • Delete the pages permantantly
  • Don't delete, improve the content of the page immediately.
  • Reduce the number of internal links
  • Improve the content X ad density ratio. More unique content on ad heavy pages.
  • Remove redundant pagination
  • Use the rel="canonical" attribute on duplicate pages
  • Do nothing quite yet, watch and see what happens
  • Revisit those dark and forgotten parts of your website, eliminate any junk
  • Address boilerplate content. Reduce it, or consider making it unique for each page
  • Give Google feedback on the update and how it impacted your website
  • Submit a reinclusion request once you have cleaned up portions of your website

Some gems from the thread:

Netmeg makes an excellent recommendation on determining what pages to fix:

So the first thing I am doing is taking the same advice I've been spouting in the AdSense forum for years - take an objective look at my site, and measure percentages.

If nav + ads + header + footer > content; then fix.

If nav + ads + header + footer < content; probly ok.

Tedster suggests:

Even if weak pages do help drag down good pages on the site, it still seems to me that addressing the "Biggest Loser" pages first makes very good sense. In other words, even though there is a site-wide component at work, the greatest power of the update is focused at individual URLs.

What is clear is we are still not quite sure how these changes will impact the rankings in the short and long term. That will take some time to figure out. I think it will be important to monitor the forums where webmasters are making these changes and recording their postive/negative impact to figure out the best strategy for your website. Stay tuned.

Continued discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: March 4, 2011


Ryan B.

03/05/2011 05:58 am

Improving your content is an endeavor that will never stir you wrong. I think where most seo's get in trouble is when they try to have certain percentages of keyword density. I think you should just write the best content you can about the subject you're talking about and the keywords will appear naturally.

UK Cloud hosting Services

03/05/2011 10:52 am

See site content is same but needs to improve ranking only if it is been hampered by the changes. That's all we can do to save online business.

online shopping uk

03/07/2011 08:50 am

Agreed!! It Takes some time to regain the rankings, may be a crawl or two, but in this period of time you have to determine that things are going on right direction or not.. First of All you have to write some qualitative content for your website also check the keywords density as well..


03/07/2011 09:59 am

Their ranking is probably gone forever with Google. The best they can hope for is that people increase their searches through Bing.

Ian Harte

03/07/2011 11:40 am

Great post! I have not been effected by the farmer update atm. However I am monitoring my site to see if anything is happening, but based on what google & everyone else is saying I think my site will be ok!

Ben Pfeiffer

03/07/2011 07:14 pm

Good to hear Ian!


03/07/2011 09:14 pm

I find that it was a hit or miss when it came to what companies were effected by the farmer update. So now we have time to play the "Safety Dance" in knowing that nothing online is going to be a 100% protected.


03/08/2011 04:20 pm

Good article Ryan...for the most party. But Google has made it clear in their own help thread that this was a Algorithmic NOT a Manual adjustment, so a reconsideration (not a reinclusion mind you) request would really do you no good here. Google won't be able to make manual adjustments on a site-by-site basis. That's my understanding. Now, that doesn't mean you CAN'T submit a recon request if (as you are conducting a thorough review) you find "other" issues that you may want to bring to the attention of Google by means of triggering a manual review. But if your issues are specifically "Farmer" content-related, all you can really do is implement the VERY sound strategies above.


03/08/2011 04:32 pm

My bad...good article BEN. Darn Discuss didn't let me edit fast enough.

Ben Pfeiffer

03/08/2011 05:09 pm

Good point on the reinclusion request Casey. Your right, it probably won't do much good and should only be used if you are caught with issues other than the Farmer algo update such as paid links, cloaking, spam, etc... On the subject of manual fixes, I have witnessed Google do a select few manuel fixes in the past (some even for clients) but those times have since long passed unfortunately.


03/08/2011 06:38 pm

So true, the idea of a "manual fix" being an option was previously something that I could point clients to who needed that elusive "ray of hope" when hit with a Google slap. But that's just no longer the case. We've got a detailed write-up on this whole mess coming out in the April 1st issue of Search Engine News, I'll also be updating our detailed guide on Google Penalties in light of the Content Farmer (Panda) changes. It's been a busy month on the SEO front that's for sure! Keep up the good work Ben!

Neuro SEO India

03/09/2011 09:28 am

Removing Unnecessary pages developed for only getting rankings and the pages having just NO traffic in the anlaytics should be deleted and modified now.

Cheap Cars For Sale

03/11/2011 10:14 am

I'm still wondering how the classified ads sites play in this Panda update ?? If Google only wants quality content, most of this classified sites are going to disappear then, or am I wrong ??


03/11/2011 05:52 pm

My classified site was hit, but I see competitors that are doing better than ever including one that is 80% ebay feeds. Go figure. The other factor with classified sites, especially automotive sites is you have dealers that are placing the same content all over the web. How does Google treat that kind of duplicate content?

Cheap Cars For Sale

03/11/2011 10:03 pm

"dealers that are placing the same content all over the web." ... yeah, this is the real point with the classifieds ads sites. Can you tell me one of this competitor sites you say is doing better after the Panda update ? thanks!


03/18/2011 02:14 am

Since this was an Algo Update targeted at Content, what needs to be seen is "How can your Bot determine if your content is low quality shit"? It is just texts right? How did eHow survive? Is it because of the video contents they have? Looking at Suite101, ezine - It looks like they checked the duplicity of the content. Looking at Mahalo- It looks like they checked scraped content. Looking at wisegeek and lovetoknow- it looks like they are a How to site without video? OR better still, was there manual intervention? Seeing that there still are some ezine pages in the top SERP, are they looking at Inbound links for individual pages? I don't there was any algorithmic change. YOU cannot determine is content is quality by crawling the content. Are we back to the Yahoo days? You can rank based on content? /endrant


03/20/2011 05:13 am

You have an excellent site here with plenty of quality information about google and the analytics, algorithms and all that jazz. I found you through a google search of all things! Yup. Put "Google - Panda - Algorithm" and guess who turned up. That means you must have something good to say. I'm a blogger at Hubpages and there have been many changes. Most immediately this past week everyone has been required to fix their hubs. All amazon, ebay, links, etc that sat at the top of the page had to be moved down. With almost 100 blogs, I only had to repair 4 blogs. I've always been about educating the public about my passion of health and the environment, with a touch of nature, poems and other interests. Normally, you will see your profile rating go down if things aren't going well. So, everything seems steady for me. I'm looking forward to finding out what is next around the corner. I will add this blog to my article, "Google Versus Suite 101 Algorithm Changes Disgruntle Authors," I appreciate your work here and Happy Super Full Moon Holi Day Purim. Blessings, Debby


03/21/2011 05:52 pm

I liked the If nav + ads + header + footer > content; then fix. If nav + ads + header + footer < content; probly ok. tip. Some people really have the knack of giving simple but useful advices and in a manner that just automatically stick to your mind!! Amazing...


06/19/2011 08:35 pm

Why would I reduce the number of internal link ? Didn't get it.


08/15/2011 03:50 pm

Hi, thanks für the great post. i have a question: Is it necessary to delete the "bad content" pages or is it enough to us "noindex, follow". Are there any experiences yet or statement from google? Thank you guy. Olli

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